Morsi declares state of emergency
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi yesterday declared a 30-day state of emergency in Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez after seven people died from gunshot wounds and tear gas shelling when thousands marched in the coastal city of Port Said during a mass funeral for 30 civilians killed on Saturday.
The mourners chanted, “There is no God but Allah, and Morsi is God’s enemy.” Police fired live rounds and tear gas as protesters set fire to police and army officers’ clubs. At least 17 received gunshot wounds and 416 suffered gas inhalation.
Saturday’s fatalities in Port Said occurred during rioting against death sentences pronounced by a Cairo court on 21 supporters of al-Masry football club accused of killing 74 mem- bers of Cairo’s rival al-Ahli team at a riot at the stadium almost a year ago.
Two policemen, one a senior officer, were also killed as a mob attempted to storm the prison where the condemned men and 52 other accused, including nine officials and security men, are being held. The majority of the accused are due to be sentenced in March.
Families and friends of the condemned men claim they are scapegoats being sacrificed to prove the judiciary and the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, headed by Mr Morsi, are prepared to deal harshly with law breakers.
In Cairo youths and riot police clashed on Qasr al-Nil bridge spanning the Nile and opening on to Tahrir Square, forcing the nearby British and US embassies to close.
In Suez, protesters released prisoners from a jail.
To contain the violence, troops have been deployed in Port Said and Suez, where nine protesters died on Friday. A doctor at the Suez morgue reported that most had been killed by live rounds fired at close range in the backs of the protesters.
The military and Muslim Brotherhood governments that assumed power after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak have been accused by many Egyptians of failing to reform the judiciary and security agencies, ensuring that former regime figures are not held accountable for killing 846 and wounding 6,600 people during the 2011 uprising.
Opposition activists and legal experts insist that if accountability is not established and observed, human rights abuses prevalent under the Mubarak regime will persist and perpetrators will enjoy impunity.
Only Mr Mubarak and his interior minister Habib al-Adly have been convicted and jailed for the crackdown during the uprising while senior police officers, security agents and ordinary policemen have been acquitted by judges appointed during the Mubarak era.
Since Egyptians marked the second anniversary of the uprising on Friday, at least 50 people have died and 1,000 have been wounded. The latest killings put the death toll to more than 190 since Mr Mubarak was ousted.
Although blamed by the opposition for the spike in violence, Mr Morsi’s government accused the media, “opposition saboteurs” and “thugs” for the unrest. He met for the first time the country’s national defence council, comprised of ministers and army officers, which also imposed an overnight curfew in the three cities.
The council, headed by Mr Morsi, also issued a call for national dialogue.
This was conditionally welcomed by the National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, but it has demanded the formation of a neutral committee to investigate those responsible for the latest bloodshed, creation of a body to amend the constitution drafted by the Brotherhood and its allies, and establishment of a national unity government.
Mr Morsi is unlikely to agree to any of these conditions.
Egyptians have grown increasingly disillusioned during the post-Mubarak period because of instability, insecurity, rising prices, failure of their new rulers to make positive changes in Egypt’s governance and deep rifts between dominant Muslim Brothers and aspiring revolutionaries.